In this broad-ranging study of German fiction by women 1770-1914, Anna Richards adds a new dimension to existing debates on the association of women and illness in literature. Drawing on a number of primary medical sources, she constructs a history of women's self-starvation, eating behaviour, and wasting diseases in particular, and examines the portrayal of the 'wasting heroine' in works by female and selected male authors in this context. It becomes clear that
though the wasting heroine sometimes reinforces popular notions of female fragility, in certain works she represents a rejection of a traditionally female role or allows her author to make a socially critical point about women's status in society. As well as shedding light on many unduly neglected women
writers, Richards offers a valuable insight into the literary and historical origins of a modern phenomenon.